#TheDress- the debate picked up by news sites everywhere, Buzzfeed, and plethora of celebrities. It’s divided families and friends for the past day. I myself have had countless arguments on whether the dress is white and gold or black and blue (for the record, I only see white and gold).
The question is, why has this become such a phenomenon?
It all started when tumblr user swiked posted an image of a dress, saying that her friends couldn’t agree on whether the dress was gold and white or black and blue. Upon posting theimage on tumblr, it became a global frenzy. It became a top trend on Twitter, celebrities shared their thoughts on the color of the dress, and scientists got cracking right away on the actual color. Majority of people are divided on if it’s blue and black, or white and gold. Turns out, the actual color is… (spoilers)
Adobe has endorsed @hopetaylorphoto’s explanation for the phenomenon, with her use of changing the white balance of the photo, or the adjusting of colors so the image looks more natural. Changing the white balance makes the photo warmer or cooler, depending on the sort of light the picture was shot in. She stated that changing the white balance of the picture to warmer makes it white and gold, but changing the white balance of the picture to cooler makes it black and blue. This was the best explanation of the time, but it still didn’t explain why people saw either gold and white or black and blue.
The best explanation came from an ASAPScience video, and on Reddit. People see different things because of color constancy, a vision phenomenon. People see different things due to the background or context of the photo.
If you look at the photo above, squares A and B appear to be different colors. In reality, they are exactly the same. Square B appears to be lighter because of the fact that the cylinder casts and shadow onto that square. Shadows make objects appear darker, so your brain compensates, and makes the square lighter.
The same principle can be applied to the dress. In the photo, we are not aware of the surroundings, so the brain has to make assumptions. People who see white and gold are picturing the dress with a blue background, for example near a window with a blue sky. The brain tries to remove the blue as a possible shadow, making the dress appear white and gold. People who see blue and black picture the surroundings to be under artificial light, such as those found in shops. Thus, the blue and black color appears.
Why did this become such a phenomenon? As CNN simply put it, “we’d rather debate something positive, like the dress, than ISIS and Department of Homeland Security funding.”
Even after reading all these articles, I still see the dress and white and gold, which I find extremely surprising. Nevertheless, I’m glad to know that I wasn’t the only one (apparently 75% people also do according to the most recent Buzzfeed survey) that saw it in this way. Just goes to show how tricky the brain really is.